Tracking Down the Original Creonte

At this point the term “creonte” is almost exclusively the property of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Whether we like it or not, it is now a permanent part of BJJ culture. The term has become synonymous with a traitor, someone that changes allegiances. Creonte was coined by Carlson Gracie Jr. after a character in a soap opera he used to enjoy.

This is not a post about loyalty or jiu-jitsu politics.

Instead, I want to do more to flesh out this jiu-jitsu term. Have you ever wondered what was the name of the telenovela that Carlson liked so much? Perhaps more important, what did the original Creonte looke like?

A few weeks ago I was chatting with my friend Matt Kirtley about the term creonte, and we wondered if we could find the actor that played him. This turned out to be a fascinating rabbit hole.

After an IMDB search failed us, I asked Google to search for “telenovela brasil Creonte.” And there we learned that the soap opera—or telenovela for us Latin folk—was called Mandala. Mandala aired in the biggest TV station in Brazil, Globo, in 1988. It aired in the coveted 8pm slot, “novelas das oito.” This is a big deal in South America. It’s right before the 9pm news and has the highest ratings.

Mandala was a modern take on Oedipus Rex by Sophocles. You know, the Greek tragedy about the guy cursed to kill his father and marry his mother. All the characters from the tragedy were Brasilianized into Edipo, Creonte, Jocasta, etc. Creonte, much like the Oedipus character Creon, is dislike by many and eventually murdered. Check out this scene for some amazing 80’s South American telenovela acting:

Creonte was played by two actors as there is a 25 year time gap in the story. Gracindo Junior is the main actor, and Marcos Palmeira also played the role. Gracindo Junior is still acting and directing and is one of the most well know Brazilian telenovela actors.

Researching telenovelas was just another weird internet thing for Matt, but for me it brought back memories of watching the 8pm telenovelas with family in Chile. Putting a face to the term Creonte might not be historically impactful, but it brings more life to one of jiu-jitsu’s classic stories.

Then again, if you trained long enough and follow the classic take on jiu-jitsu loyalty, you’ve probably put more than a few faces to the term creonte.